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Writing a self destructing exe file

, 26 Apr 2003 Public Domain
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Explains how you can have a program delete itself once it has finished running without a reboot


Uninstall programs typically want to delete themselves at the end of the un-installation, but executable cannot delete itself by simply calling the DeleteFile function. By calling the Selfdestruct() function showed below before program exit, the calling executable will be destroyed as soon as possible. The method shown in this article works on all Win32 platforms and there is no need to reboot.

Using the code

Just call the Selfdestruct() function before program exit.

// this is the name of the temporary .bat file
static const char tempbatname[] = "_uninsep.bat" ;

void Selfdestruct() 
  // temporary .bat file
  static char templ[] = 
    "del \"%s\"\r\n"
    "if exist \"%s\" goto Repeat\r\n"
    "rmdir \"%s\"\r\n"
    "del \"%s\"" ;

  char modulename[_MAX_PATH] ;    // absolute path of calling .exe file
  char temppath[_MAX_PATH] ;      // absolute path of temporary .bat file
  char folder[_MAX_PATH] ;

  GetTempPath(_MAX_PATH, temppath) ;
  strcat(temppath, tempbatname) ;

  GetModuleFileName(NULL, modulename, MAX_PATH) ;
  strcpy (folder, modulename) ;
  char *pb = strrchr(folder, '\\');
  if (pb != NULL)
    *pb = 0 ;

  HANDLE hf ;
  hf = CreateFile(temppath, GENERIC_WRITE, 0, NULL, 
    DWORD len ;
    char *bat ;

    bat = (char*)alloca(strlen(templ) + 
               strlen(modulename) * 2 + strlen(temppath) + 20) ;

    wsprintf(bat, templ, modulename, modulename, folder, temppath) ;

    WriteFile(hf, bat, strlen(bat), &len, NULL) ;
    CloseHandle(hf) ;

    ShellExecute(NULL, "open", temppath, NULL, NULL, SW_HIDE);

How it works

Let's assume the executable that wants to destroy itself is located in c:\myfolder\selfdestruct.exe. The Selfdestruct() function will create following .bat in the computers temp folder and then launches it:

    del "c:\myfolder\selfdestruct.exe"
    if exist "c:\myfolder\selfdestruct.exe" goto Repeat
    rmdir "c:\myfolder"
    del "c:\temp\_uninsep.bat" ;

The .bat file will try to delete the c:\myfolder\selfdestruct.exe over and over until it finally succeeds (that is as soon as selfdestruct.exe has finished execution. Then it tries to remove the containing folder (here c:\myfolder) which will work only if it is empty and finally deletes itself. Fortunately .bat files can delete themselves.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under A Public Domain dedication


About the Author

Michael Walz

Switzerland Switzerland
No Biography provided

Comments and Discussions

Generalfolder doesnot get deleted Pinmemberlearningvisualc18-Mar-10 1:04 
QuestionWhat is this templ????????????? PinmemberRAJEEV_RSD25-Sep-09 0:05 
AnswerRe: What is this templ????????????? PinmemberMichael Walz25-Sep-09 0:44 
Generalbat file Pinmembertetadenovicia26-Jun-08 8:09 
QuestionSelf-Destructing Files Pinmembertao17-May-08 11:56 
GeneralHere's another safe and simple way PinmemberPaul Sanders (AlpineSoft)20-Oct-07 8:02 
QuestionIssue with deleting the directory Pinmemberccoffman9729-Dec-06 6:52 
AnswerRe: Issue with deleting the directory PinmemberSF123420-Feb-07 17:43 
GeneralRe: Issue with deleting the directory Pinmemberccoffman9721-Feb-07 4:09 
QuestionModification Question PinmemberDark_Xion1-Oct-06 7:51 
GeneralI wrote something like this... PinmemberKhan Shere18-Jan-05 22:22 
GeneralRe: I wrote something like this... PinmemberKhan Shere21-Jul-05 8:59 
GeneralBug fixes and enhancements PinmemberDennis Jiang4-Jul-03 10:37 
GeneralRe: Bug fixes and enhancements Pinmemberamethystwu24-Oct-05 21:23 
GeneralOther methods PinmemberPapa28-Apr-03 4:34 
GeneralRe: Other methods - Clickety PinmemberPhil J Pearson29-Apr-03 8:06 
GeneralRe: Other methods: More Methods PinmemberDoctorKoch15-Jan-07 0:40 
GeneralReally really small article HTML bug PinmemberDominik Reichl27-Apr-03 10:26 
GeneralBatch doesn't terminate PinmemberDominik Reichl27-Apr-03 10:16 
GeneralRe: Batch doesn't terminate Pinmemberjlap77727-Apr-03 14:45 
GeneralRe: Batch doesn't terminate PinmemberDominik Reichl28-Apr-03 7:45 
GeneralRe: Batch doesn't terminate PinmemberDJWALSH28-Apr-03 3:08 
GeneralRe: Batch doesn't terminate PinmemberDominik Reichl28-Apr-03 7:43 
GeneralRe: Batch doesn't terminate PinmemberMichael Walz28-Apr-03 7:50 
GeneralRe: Batch doesn't terminate PinmemberDominik Reichl28-Apr-03 8:49 
GeneralRe: Batch doesn't terminate PinmemberPater28-Apr-03 23:23 
GeneralRe: Batch doesn't terminate Pinmemberespelly29-Apr-03 0:00 
GeneralRe: Batch doesn't terminate PinmemberDominik Reichl29-Apr-03 3:11 
GeneralRe: Batch doesn't terminate PinmemberDavidCrow29-Apr-03 3:43 
GeneralNice tip :-) PineditorNishant S27-Apr-03 8:11 

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